Let’s get right to it: When you hear “beauty pageant,” there’s a negative connotation tied to it. Not only are there shows like Toddlers and Tiaras that propel those perceptions, but there are also plenty of stereotypes about pageants in general. Dramatic, attention-seeking girls who wear too much makeup. Girls with queen complexes.
While I cannot deny that I’ve known the type, I can tell you they’re far and very few between.
I didn’t always feel this way. Let me backtrack. I grew up on a farm and have always been somewhat of a tomboy. For a long time, I steered clear of makeup and the glitz and glam of beauty pageants, thinking it was only for high maintenance girls.
The thought of winning a scholarship by participating in one, however, drew me in. I thought to myself, I have a dress…the worst I could do is not win and the best case would be to win scholarship money to help pay for college. So, I tried it. Surprisingly, my own negative perceptions were swiftly nipped in the bud and my respect for the pageant community blossomed.
A Whole New World
Much to my surprise, there was way more to pageants than just pretty dresses. I quickly learned that pageantry is a sport all in itself. Can you imagine jumping into a game of basketball, baseball, or volleyball never having played before? That’s very much like jumping into a pageant having never prepared. The real work takes place behind the scenes.
You have to practice, practice, practice. You find coaches, hone your talents, work on improving your weaknesses, and study every current event issue you can fit into your brain. You perfect your walk, practice a healthy lifestyle, and learn what true confidence is about.
It’s a lot. I could get into details, but we’ll leave that for another day. The point I’m trying to make is that I entered the world of pageants and soon found the negative perceptions were an injustice to the beautifully talented and intelligent women I was surrounded by.
Business Lessons I Learned From Beauty Pageants
Fast forwarding to the year I graduated college, I discovered the many ways the pageant world helped prepare me for the career world.
1. Resume Skills
Many people don’t realize pageant competitors are often required to present resumes. Pageantry is full of women who’ve been coached, developed platforms, and ultimately prepared themselves mentally and physically for the sole purpose of standing out among their competitors. This is parallel to the career world, where you’ll be competing against other candidates who want the job you’re after — which is why you need to do everything you can to make sure your resume stands out.
Before ever having met you, someone will take a look at this piece of paper and determine whether or not you’re worth speaking to. You may be the perfect candidate with a rock star personality, but if your resume is lackluster, they probably won’t give you the face-to-face chance you need to shine.
Your resume should be filled with experience that’s pertinent to the position you’re seeking and note your ability to be adaptable in various scenarios. Employ a service if you need help putting a resume together. (Many colleges offer such assistance in their career services department).
It may seem like a lot of trouble, but it’s totally worth it. This one little piece of paper is the only thing representing you; in essence, it’s the determining factor in being called in to interview.
2. Interviewing Part I: Prepare Your Knowledge
Believe it or not, the majority of pageant prep time and money goes into interviewing. How do you sit, (or stand), how much or how little do you move your hands, how important is eye contact, what do you wear?
For interviews in both the career and pageant world, it’s important to study beforehand. You still need to be cognizant of your audience. Know the history of the company and who key personalities are within the business. If possible, try to learn a little about the etiquette and culture of the place. Preparation is key.
3. Interviewing Part II: Prepare Your Personality
Another point to remember is this: even if you don’t nail the interview with your knowledge, your personality goes a long way. It’s much more pleasant to work with people who are likeable than people who are know-it-alls and refuse to take help or constructive criticism from others. Even in my current position, I see this ALL of the time.
I coordinate job interviews, and more often than not, afterwards I hear, “This candidate had a firm grasp of technical skills but was a poor communicator” and “This candidate was not as strong as we’d like, technically speaking, but had a good attitude and seemed eager to learn and easy to work with”. Now which one do you think is more likely to be hired? Almost always the person who needs improvement but has a good attitude will get the position.
4. Public Speaking: (aka the Ability to Communicate)
Imagine standing on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers — five of whom have score cards in hand, pens poised and ready to score you. It’s daunting, and oftentimes stressful. Public speaking requires being knowledgeable about a multitude of subjects. It also demands the ability to be diplomatic, as you don’t want to offend the group you’re speaking to. The goal of speechmaking is to impart some piece of wisdom and to inspire.
A huge part of public speaking is the Q&A portion. This is the time allotted for people to ask questions after you’ve said what you came to say. These questions could be personal, opinion, or political. And don’t forget, the manner in which you deliver your answers reflects your confidence in yourself and your knowledge on the subject at hand. Even if your new career doesn’t involve speaking in front of large audiences, you’ll likely be expected to speak to small groups or present an idea to co-workers and higher level associates. People will be able to detect how comfortable you are with in front of them.
Good communication skills are a major advantage in all career fields. This particular ability could lead to sales roles or representative positions. Even in a customer service position, your aptitude for positive and effective communication can be a game changer for how successful you become.
I have to say, the greatest thing I gained through my time in pageants was a sense of self confidence. It takes a lot to stand before a judges’ panel and answer questions, to walk onto stage in a swimsuit and high heels, all while competing against other extremely competent women! In my case, I gained a sense of confidence because I put in the work and was able to compete on the same level as those women who were once so intimidating to me.
The tie-back to confidence in careers is this: people, whether they be your employer or co-worker, are able to detect confidence or the lack thereof. People generally feel more comfortable working with and around people who have a sense of self-assuredness. This quality also has a way of making one stand out in the office. Eventually, bosses take notice and you’ll be more likely to be promoted.
Networking turned out to be the silver lining of pageant involvement. It’s not necessarily something you think about going into it, but the reality is you meet SO many people. Networking is all about meeting people, making friends, making connections, and putting your face and personality out there for the world to see (and of course fall in love with). Be open and personable to everyone you meet in any season of life because someone may just remember you for it. Down the line, these connections could play a big part in landing you a job.